The Gospel heard at Mass yesterday is rather atypical for a passage from Mark’s Gospel.
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
As he was walking along by the Sea of Galilee he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net in the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on a little further, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they too were in their boat, mending their nets. He called them at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him.
Mark’s Gospel is full of short passages, which are full of incident and wonder. But almost always they will end with an acknowledgement that people did not understand; or Jesus says do ‘x’ and they do ‘y’; or ‘they’ begin to plot how to kill him.
Mark is told to reintroduce to faith those who are struggling with their frailty as disciples, and who are familiar with the darkness of the world. So mostly he frames his stories in this way, and the Gospel as a whole gives such prominence to the Passion of Christ, to his experience of abandonment and weakness, of being object of the actions of others rather free subject, wholly in control of one’s own actions.
This passage is atypical, because of its place in the narrative. Here Mark is evoking first enthusiasm, and the two incidents related are first in a sequence of impressive events which tell of the powerful impact of Jesus, and people’s wholesome response to him. So no ‘dying fall’ at the end.
But note how it begins: ‘After John had been arrested….’ Storm clouds are gathering, John – we know – is to die, but Jesus proclaims Good News. But will we hear it? How enthusiastic in this darkening world will our response be? And for how long?
Photograph of boats on the banks of the Rhone at Avignon. (C) Allen Morris, 2014.